Hundreds Arrested Worldwide in New Zealand’s Online Child Abuse Investigation

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WELLINGTON, March 2 (Reuters) – A New Zealand-led global investigation into online child sexual exploitation material has identified more than 90,000 accounts, led to the arrests of hundreds of offenders around the world and protected 146 children, authorities said on Wednesday.

The collection of online images was discovered in late 2019 when a New Zealand-based internet service provider sounded the alarm, triggering a two-year investigation dubbed “Operation H”.

The New Zealand Department of Home Affairs (DIA), the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Australian Federal Police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the UK National Crime Agency, Europol and INTERPOL worked together to identify and investigate individuals linked to the Accounts.

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“A lot of people who view content like this are going to continue to physically offend children,” said Tim Houston, head of the DIA’s digital child exploitation team and lead investigator for Operation H, in a statement. communicated.

“It is imperative that we are able to bring them to justice before they can do more damage.”

About 836 cases have been investigated internationally and 146 children have been protected, the DIA said. Forty-six people have been arrested in New Zealand and hundreds more overseas, including in Britain, Canada, Spain and Slovenia.

Britain’s National Crime Agency said many of the 450 people arrested were in positions of trust, including in primary schools and nurseries, law enforcement and medical industries, and some religious leaders.

“This is not a victimless crime, every time this material is viewed, this child is re-victimized,” DIA’s Houston said.

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Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Karishma Singh and Jane Wardell

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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